Current literature debates the relationship between transnationalism and integration. Portes and his colleagues describe transnationalism as activities and occupations undertaken by immigrants through regular and sustained social networks across national borders, including having homes in two nations (Portes 1999; Portes et al. 1999). The critical mass of participants, improved communication, and better transportation distinguish current forms of transnationalism from the historic ones (Portes et al. 1999). In this paper, transnationalism refers to separation of the nuclear family across national borders.

Integration is the inter-connected adjustment of immigrant and native-born groups to create a developing national project, whereas assimilation requires immigrants to adjust to static national institutions and culture (Ley 2013). Snel et al. (2006) distinguish two dimensions of integration: structural and socio-cultural. Structural integration refers to participation in the nation’s labor market and education system, while socio-cultural integration denotes informal social contacts, cultural values, and the feeling of belonging.

Current literature proposes several approaches to consider the relationship of transnationalism and integration (or assimilation in the American context). Kivisto (2001) contends that transnationalism is a subset of assimilation, since transnational immigrants are engaged both in acculturation to the receiving nation and maintenance of connections to the country of origin. The pragmatic perspective, which predominates in academic work, holds that transnationalism and integration are not mutually exclusive or opposites because connections with the host society and sending nation occur concurrently (Erdal and Oeppen 2013; Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004; Mügge 2016). More recently, researchers have questioned how transnationalism and integration interact with one another (Erdal and Oeppen 2013; Mügge 2016).

Erdal and Oeppen (2013) propose that transnationalism and integration can interact in an additive, synergistic, or antagonistic manner as migrants and their transnational and local populations respond to opportunities and constraints within these societies. The typology also disaggregates transnationalism and integration into structural and socio-cultural dimensions. For example, an immigrant being economically active in both the country of origin and settlement represents an additive interaction, whereas investment of resources from the country of origin to develop further resources in the host country demonstrates a synergistic interaction. If requirements for resources in the host country limit the ability to meet demands in the country of origin then the interaction is classified as antagonistic.

Within the transnationalism-integration dynamic place continues to hold an important position because the majority of transnational immigrants spend most of their day-to-day lives in one location (Kivisto 2001). Erdal and Oeppen (2013) contend that while residing most of the time in the place of settlement intrinsically causes some form of integration to occur, transnational immigrants must juggle the resource demands of integration with the resource requirements of transnational connections. In this paper, we keep the primary residential location constant as we compare the integration experiences of Chinese immigrants from transnational split households in Metro Vancouver with those of their compatriots living in dual-parent households in the same receiving city. We assess how structural integration, including employment, finances and housing, and socio-cultural integration, such as network ties, extra-curricular activities and community participation, differ between transnational split household and dual-parent household contexts.

Migration Motivations

Historically, immigration policies in the host country plus political and economic circumstances in the country of origin were principal drivers of immigration from Asian nations to Canada (Wang and Wang 2012). From 1962 to 1986, Canadian immigration policy began to change from one based on national origin, which favored European immigrants, to policies based on skills, entrepreneurship or investment; the policy changes altered migration patterns (Skeldon 1994; Waters 2003). Over the last several decades, changes in ideology and policy to enhance the globalization of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), including a reduction of exit restrictions, have increased emigration of professional and skilled workers from the PRC to Canada (Landolt and Da 2005; Wang and Lo 2004). In recent decades, transnational split family migration has re-emerged as a migration pattern from China, now often characterized by husbands returning to China, while their wives and children immigrate to the receiving country (Abelmann et al. 2014; Kobayashi and Preston 2007; Pe-Pua et al. 1998). Transnational split or astronaut households are migrant households, in which one or both parents of a household work and live in the country of origin, while the other nuclear family members live in the receiving nation-state (Aye and Guerin 2001; Dreby 2006; Irving et al. 1999; Parrenas 2005; Yeoh et al. 2005).

Transnational Split Household Creation: Education, Status, and Employment Impetuses

Research has shown that family members often create a transnational split household in order to improve education opportunities, social progression or employment options (Ho and Bedford 2008). One driver of Chinese transnational household formation in recent years is educational opportunity for children in host countries, such as Canada (Waters 2003, 2005). Competition for limited secondary and post-secondary educational spaces in China, the one-child policy and the opening up of the country has prompted more middle- and upper-class families to seek educational opportunities abroad for their children. (Huang and Yeoh 2005; Zhou 1998). Confucianism asserts the prominent role of educational attainment for achieving high status social positions (Zhou 1998). By seeking to enhance the opportunities for the children’s future, the transnational household strategy aims to elevate social and cultural capital in order to raise the family’s collective future status and well-being (Orellana et al. 2001; Yeoh et al. 2005).

However, only limited research to date has studied the effects of a transnational split household structure on children’s academic and extra-curricular activities outside of school hours. For example, a study of Hong Kong astronaut families in Ontario found that while children completed large quantities of homework during their father’s visit, they only did a small amount of schoolwork for a period after the visit, which led to missed deadlines (Sheppard 1998). In California, a study of Chinese households with two astronaut parents found that children lacked their family’s network of control and support (Zhou 1998). The astronaut parents were not present to ensure homework was finished and extra-curricular activities were arranged.

Another driver of transnational split household migration patterns is obstructed economic opportunities in the receiving country coupled with improving business and employment opportunities in the East Asian country of origin (Zhou 1998). For example, Taiwanese Americans entered into astronaut household structures in response to difficulties faced by new immigrants, including lack of English proficiency, and non-recognition of foreign work experience and qualifications (Chee 2005). In Vancouver, Canada, a qualitative study of skilled immigrants from the PRC found that some families formed transnational split households to maximize the family’s resources and opportunities, when the husband determined that he could not acquire suitable employment or entrepreneurial opportunities in the receiving nation (Teo 2007).

Research has demonstrated that a skilled worker in China can not necessarily become one in Canada (Teo 2007). As compared to the general Canadian population, Chinese immigrants to Canada in the 1980s and 1990s had much lower employment and self-employment income even with their increasing human capital, such as educational qualifications and official language skills (Wang and Lo 2004). A qualitative study of skilled immigrants from the PRC, who landed in Vancouver from 1996 to 2001, found that senior management and professional occupations dropped sharply, while service sector employment increased (Teo 2007). The main obstacles to suitable employment were professional licensing requirements, Canadian work experience, and language skills requisites. Research has not studied how the employment and financial outcomes for a dual-parent Chinese immigrant household strategy in Canada compare to outcomes for a transnational split household approach.

Altered Social Ties

In order to understand the mechanisms behind the disparate paths to integration for various immigrant household types, it is also important to examine how social ties, which are transformed after immigration, affect family responsibilities and community participation. Care networks may not immigrate and access to social support in the host nation may be limited (Da 2003). A study of middle- and upper-class Taiwanese and Hong Kong astronaut wives in Vancouver found a lack of these networks of assistance for most of the women in the receiving country (Waters 2002). Furthermore, a qualitative study of Chinese transnational families in Nashville found that cultural concerns and cost prevented some families from using daycare facilities for children under 3 years of age (Wang 2011). Thus, after migration, astronaut wives have to adapt to new domestic roles and childcare becomes a high priority (Lam 1994; Waters 2002). We will explore how post immigration childcare arrangements differ between Chinese transnational split households and dual-parent households, and how these variations impact employment opportunities.

Research shows that while astronaut wives face barriers continuing their professional careers in the host country, they gain increased autonomy within their communities. A study of Taiwanese astronaut wives in Canada found that most of the women faced impediments when trying to continue their professional careers after immigration, instead becoming housewives with traditional familial roles (Chiang 2008). However, their increased free time gave them more opportunity to create social networks and gain Canadian experiences through participation in ethnic and religious organizations. A study of Taiwanese American transnational families found that while some women in the receiving nation discontinued the careers they had established in Taiwan, they became the heads of the household in the USA, interacting with their communities (Chee 2005). Those women with fewer family members in the vicinity post immigration connected with religious institutions for social networks, support and activities, even if the women were not religious. Our study will compare how astronaut wives and women in dual- parent households experience community integration.

An associated gap in the literature to fill concerns the effects of language and culture on social relationships in the host nation for members of transnational split households versus those in dual-parent households. Language and cultural barriers with other groups tend to direct many recent Chinese immigrants into social relationships with those who speak their language and share their culture. A qualitative study of Hong Kong astronaut families in Australia found that while most women had time for varied recreation with friends and family, close friends usually were of Chinese ethnicity. (Pe-Pua et al. 1998). In Vancouver, a study of skilled immigrants from the PRC found that even for those with good English language skills, it was difficult to cross the cultural barrier because social bridges were absent. Thus, their social relationship circles were mostly Chinese (Teo 2007). However, language ability combined with higher status may act as a bridge to social relationships based on class rather than ethnicity (Bryceson and Vuorela 2002).


To date, empirical and theoretical explanations of immigrant housing experiences in Canada tend to focus on housing markets (Simone and Newbold 2014) and immigrant background (Haan 2005) with limited research conducted about the transnational effects on housing trajectories (Kuuire et al. 2016). In recent years, the vacancy rate in the rental housing market has been low in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal leading to rising rents (Hiebert et al. 2006) and in Vancouver to crowding (Hiebert et al. 2008). Expensive housing markets in the three metropolitan areas, particularly Vancouver, also makes home ownership difficult and crowded conditions more frequent (Hiebert et al. 2008; Simone and Newbold 2014).

Research on immigrant background and housing experiences in Canada has studied family type, income, immigration admission class and ethnicity (Haan 2007, 2012; Hiebert et al. 2006, 2008). In Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, dual-parent households have a high tendency to home ownership, while single-parent households are more likely to be tenants; these trends are related to income differences (Hiebert et al. 2006, 2008). However, while more prosperous households have a higher propensity to home ownership, recent immigrants in Vancouver and Toronto have higher home ownership rates than would be expected based on their household income. Research shows that use of savings and prioritizing home ownership over other spending explains some of this trend.

In Canada and Vancouver, in particular, Chinese immigrants have one of the highest home ownership rates among immigrants (Haan 2007; Hiebert et al. 2008). Business immigrants with large financial resources partially explain this trend in Vancouver (Hiebert et al. 2008). However, in general, when a group spends a larger proportion of their income to own their home rather than rent, then home ownership is important within the group, and households make sacrifices to achieve ownership (Haan 2012). Based on data from the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada 2000/2001, from 6 months to 4 years after arrival, Chinese immigrants spent about twice as much to own as to rent a home.

While immigrants’ transnational arrangements have implications for integration into the receiving nation-state, few Canadian studies have explored the effect of transnational connections on housing integration, including home ownership and living conditions (Kuuire et al. 2016; Shooshtari et al. 2014). For example, a study using data from the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants in Canada found that remitting to the country of origin has a negative impact on the ability to gain home ownership in the host country (Kuuire et al. 2016). However, to the best of our knowledge, research has not studied the housing experiences in the host nation of Chinese immigrants engaged in a transnational split household structure versus those in a dual-parent household.

This paper seeks to fill the gap in the literature for a comparative approach that studies the integration experiences of immigrants involved in transnational split households versus counterparts residing in dual-parent households. This paper contributes to current debates about the interaction between transnationalism and integration by examining outcomes in both structural and socio-cultural dimensions.


This paper analyzes data from qualitative interviews with recent immigrants of Chinese ethnicity from the PRC to Metro Vancouver. Interviews were conducted with 10 women in transnational split households and 10 women in dual-parent households in 2011–2012. Participants were aged 19–64 years, married or lived common-law, and had at least 1 child.

In qualitative research, sampling designs can facilitate analytic generalizations applied to broader theory based on how selected cases correspond with general constructs (Curtis et al. 2000). Subgroup sampling design, a type of parallel sampling design in qualitative research, enables comparison of different subgroups that are drawn from the same level of study (Onwuegbuzie and Leech 2007). Comparing subgroups promotes understanding of phenomena because context influences the meaning of events and context can vary among subgroups. In qualitative research, purposive samples are used to gain understanding into individuals, events and phenomena.

Researchers frequently use saturation as a guide for determining sample size in qualitative studies (Mason 2010). Factors including the scope of the study, the nature of the topic (Morse 2000), the homogeneity of the population, and the number of selection criteria for the sample (Ritchie et al. 2003) can affect saturation. In support of rapid saturation and a small sample size, this is (1) an exploratory study in which the topic’s information is fairly easily collected from interviews; (2) the population in not particularly diverse in relation to the subject of inquiry; and (3) there are few sample criteria. Using data from a qualitative study comprised of 60 semi-structured interviews with a relatively homogeneous group of respondents, Guest et al. (2006) found that data saturation occurred within 12 interviews, at which point in data collection and analysis new information caused limited or no revision to the codebook. We acknowledge using ten rather than 12 participants per subgroup as a limitation to our study.

Respondents were recruited primarily through website postings, public bulletin boards, and flyer handouts at public libraries, educational institutions, and settlement service agencies. By advertising for respondents in multiple types of media, we made efforts to address sampling biases associated with any one source. Respondents received a small honorarium for their participation. Each participant signed a consent form and received a copy to keep at the beginning of the interview. The study procedures and protocol were approved by the University of British Columbia Behavioral Research Ethics Board.

The data were collected in face-to-face interviews by research assistants in the languages that were requested by study participants. In-person qualitative interviewing allows for the probing of participants’ responses in order to generate more specific and detailed data, and produces richer data than phone interviews or other kinds of survey questionnaires (Berg 2007; McCracken 1998; Shuy 2003). The semi-structured interview guide covered questions about demographics, immigration process, housing, financial security, employment, family life, community life and the future. The interview guide included both closed-ended and open-ended questions. The inclusion of broad open-ended questions, such as “What prevents you from feeling more at home here? Why?” (Ryan and Woodill 2000) and “What stresses have been placed upon the functioning of your family unit in the process of settlement and integration?” (Cabral 2000) aimed to capture the breadth and depth of factors, which were important from the respondents’ perspectives. Utilizing a semi-structured interview protocol has been demonstrated to be a powerful research tool, particularly for understanding a respondent’s social world (Denzin and Lincoln 2005; Holstein and Gubrium 2003; Rubin and Rubin 2005). Interviews averaged 90 min in length and took place in public settings, such as coffee shops or libraries, or the private locale of respondents’ homes, whichever they preferred.

The digitally recorded interviews were translated and transcribed on an ongoing basis. The transcripts were analyzed with the assistance of Atlas.ti software. The first step of the data analysis was the open coding of the data, both to address research questions in line with the original study aims and to examine unexpected results (Berg 2007). The analysis investigated common themes that emerged in the interviews. The second stage of focused coding developed subtopics, identified links and distinguished variations (Emerson et al. 1995).


The demographic features of the members in the two subsamples were similar. Most of the respondents in each group (70%) arrived in Canada from 2009 to 2011. The average age of respondents in the two groups was similar: the transnational split household group averaged 41 years and the dual-parent group averaged 39 years. All the study participants were married or common law. Nineteen respondents had one child each and one study participant in the two-parent group had two children. The average age of the children was 14 years in the transnational split households and 13 years in the households with 2 parents living in the host country.

Attendance at English language classes after immigration was also similar for the two groups. Seven astronaut wives and 6 control group respondents reported attending English class since coming to Canada.

Our study results compare the integration experiences of women in transnational split households with those of women in dual-parent households. We compare the importance of children’s education and enrichment on migration decisions and settlement actions for the two household types. How does the different significance placed on children’s advancement affect economic and labor market integration for transnational families and dual-parent families? Do formal and informal network tie strategies for integration diverge between women in the two household types? Finally, we examine how the household structure affects housing integration parameters, such as quality and ownership.

Prioritizing Children’s Advancement

Unlike women in the control group, who often immigrated to be near family or friends, women in transnational families usually immigrated for their children’s education. Sheryl Chang,Footnote 1 who lives in a dual-parent household with her husband, her two children and her mother, said she immigrated to Canada because “I got married with my husband, and came for family reunion.” In contrast, mothers in transnational families (6/10) were more likely than those in the control group (3/10) to report that their family immigrated to Canada for their children’s education. Meredith Ren, who lives with her 15-year-old daughter in the Canadian location of their family’s transnational household, noted:

The reason for my immigration is very simple, which is my child’s education. The education in Jiangsu province is not very good. I want my child to become a global talent in the future… I hope she can speak two languages and have knowledge of not only China but also the West, so that she can function like a bridge between two or more cultures.

Mothers living in transnational households (6/10) more frequently indicated than their counterparts in the control group (3/10) that their children were engaged in academic activities after school, on weekends or during the summer. Children in transnational households (7/10) were also more apt than those in the control group (4/10) to be involved in arts, sports or volunteer activities after school. Astronaut wife Jocelyn Cao said that her 16-year-old daughter:

Does volunteering now twice a week, with each time two hours. She volunteers on Tuesday, learns flute on Wednesday, has English tutoring on Thursday and learns to play golf on Friday. She goes to English training school on Saturday. On Sunday she rests.

Being the focus of immigration plans and transnational household creation, children in astronaut families responded with higher involvement in enrichment activities outside of school hours.

Mothers in transnational households (7/10) were also more inclined than mothers in dual-parent households (5/10) to have aspirations for a post-secondary education for their children.

Daisy Guo, a mother in a transnational household, encouraged her 14-year-old daughter: “I told her to choose a major. I will often talk about her major in college, even though she's in high school” Daisy anticipates that her daughter “will finish her university, and maybe [look for] somewhere to do her Master's degree.” The astronaut children’s propensity for community involvement could place them at an advantage for post-secondary education. Social capital gained from belonging to community organizations can positively influence post-secondary education attainment for children of immigrants in Canada (Abada and Tenkorang 2009).

Financial and Employment Costs

Prioritizing children’s education comes at a financial cost for transnational families. While astronauts (90%) were more commonly employed full-time than men in dual-parent homes (50%), astronaut households (88%) more often experienced gross household annual incomes less than or equal to $40,000 as compared to households with men who lived with their wives year round in the host country (55%). This difference in household income was unlikely due to female unemployment as both astronaut wives and women who lived year round with their husbands reported a 70% unemployment rate at the time of their study interviews. Consequent in part to the difference in gross household annual income, astronaut families (86%) were also more apt to have savings of less than or equal to $30,000 as compared to dual-parent homes (50%).

Ironically, the astronaut household structure designed to support children’s education unwittingly decreased their care network resulting in an employment barrier for mothers. Women in transnational households (4/10) were more likely than women in two-parent households (2/10) to report that immigration to Canada and settlement in the new society impacted the care work in their family units. The astronaut wives (4/10) also more frequently than the control group respondents (2/10) described care work as an obstacle that they encountered during employment searches. Valerie Song, mother of a 4-year-old boy, recounted how immigration and settlement in Canada affected her family unit:

The biggest impact is that now my husband and I are separate in two cities. Before immigration, we both were in Beijing and my son was taken care by a babysitter and his grandparents. Now I become a housewife and I am the only one to take care of our son. I can’t really find a decent job because of that. Life is really difficult here and our quality of life has been significantly decreased.

Striving for improved education attainment for their children reduced economic and labor market integration for transnational families.

In contrast, some women in dual-parent households shared child care with their husbands to advance their families’ prospects. To further their own education or employment, 30% of women in two-parent homes reported that they arranged offsetting schedules with their husbands to supervise the children. Fiona Xie explained that her husband “goes to full-time study in daytime. I go to classes in night. There is always an adult at home.” Thus, dual-parent households had an additional child care option that could afford the women increased flexibility for their own advancement.

Network Ties

Respondents in dual-parent households (8/10) were more apt than those in transnational households (4/10) to rely on settlement service agencies for help integrating into life in Canada, such as advice about employment and education. Gillian Tang, who lives with her husband and stepson in Canada, said:

I took a professional training course at MOSAIC. It was called Career Connection Program, which was to teach people to look for jobs…Now when I browse English job search websites, I am no longer as confused. I know where to find the information I need. It also helped me write resumes and cover letters in the local ways. Actually the ways people write resumes or cover letters here are quite different from what I used to in China.

In contrast, astronaut wives (7/10) were more likely than women who lived with their husbands (5/10) to turn to friends for advice to assist the respondents and their families to integrate into Canada. Astronaut wife Iris Feng reported:

You can get very useful advice every day from immigrants who have been here for a long time. They give you advice on many aspects of life, such as how to apply for telephone, television or Internet…Such matters as tax return, how to buy an apartment and air tickets, where to rent a place, things that are related to everyday life, slowly you learn from others who have the experiences.

When study participants in two-parent households did turn to friends for help adjusting to life in Canada, it was usually to Chinese friends because control group respondents (8/10) more commonly than transnational household study participants (4/10) reported that most members of their social networks were Chinese. Barbara Ma, who lives with her husband in Canada, commented: “I have some good friends here, they’re from China. We talk about how to find a job...I can always find some help when I’m in some difficulty here.”

Transnational respondents had more connections to social institutions in the host community than did women in two-parent households. Astronaut wives (5/10) more frequently than control group respondents (3/10) stated that they attended religious services and functions. Transnational split household respondent Wendy Bai said:

Going to the church makes me feel more at home here…Initially, my purpose to go to the church was to find some help. Emotionally, I felt quite lonely too. When you are there, you would find many people who do care about you... If you need, they can help you.

In contrast, control group respondents (7/10) were more likely than transnational household study participants (4/10) to report that they had no or limited participation in formal community social organizations or activities. Gillian Tang, who lives with her husband and 19-year-old step son, commented: “I don’t know what activities are available.” Mothers from dual-parent households most commonly cited access barriers (3/10), such as insufficient information or organization location, as reasons that limited their involvement in community organizations.


As compared to dual-parent households transnational families had higher housing integration in the host nation through housing quality, ownership and stability. Most astronaut wives (60%) reported living with only one other person, their child, while most dual-parent homes (70%) included three people in total. Therefore, while dual-parent homes were only slightly larger averaging 2.7 bedrooms compared to 2.2 bedrooms for astronaut family homes in the host country, women living in dual-parent homes (40%) more commonly described crowding than did astronaut wives (10%). Gillian Tang, who lives with her husband and stepson, said:

We mostly stay in the living room, which is quite small. There is no sofa in the living room. We have only one dining table there, which after dinner is used as a desk for work. Now everyone in the family is studying… All of us use the same table for study.

Astronaut families more frequently owned their homes in the host country (60%). In contrast, dual-parent homes often were rented (70%). While the small difference between the average monthly mortgage ($1013) versus rent ($1147) for the smaller homes occupied by astronaut families likely made home ownership preferable, dual-parent families probably chose to rent, in part, because they faced higher average monthly mortgages ($1485) than rents ($1022) for their larger homes. Higher rates of home ownership for astronaut families potentially contributed to more housing stability for them as 78% of astronaut families compared to 56% of respondents in dual-parent homes planned to maintain their current residence in Canada for the next several years.


Most studies of immigrant integration have not included a control group to assess how the presence or absence of transnationalism alters the integration process. Studies of astronaut households tend to focus on transnational households without a comparative control group (Chiang 2008; Ho and Bedford 2008; Huang and Yeoh 2005; Pe-Pua et al. 1998; Petersen and Park-Saltzman 2010; Waters 2002, 2003), a comparison of transnational reasons and practices across life course stages (Kobayashi and Preston 2007) or a comparison of transnational strategies for immigrants from different sending nations (Abelmann et al. 2014; Landolt and Da 2005).

The comparative study design with a control group that we adopt contrasts integration experiences of transnational split households against integration experiences of dual-parent households from the same sending country to examine the interaction between transnationalism and integration in structural and socio-cultural dimensions. In the employment structural dimension, there is an antagonistic interaction between transnationalism and integration. Reliance on a transnational flow of income from the country of origin to the receiving nation contributes to a lower household income. In addition, a transnational split of potential household workers concurrently creates a transnational separation of household parents. Our findings expand upon previous research that found astronaut wives have new childcare roles in the receiving nation (Lam 1994). As compared to two-parent households, we show that in transnational split households, the burden of childcare primarily falls upon the parent in the host nation with the children, which causes an employment obstacle for that parent.

Conversely, there is a positive interaction between transnationalism and integration in the housing structural dimension. Our study found that the transnational split household strategy was more conducive to home ownership, stability, and roominess in the host country despite the transnational strategy’s propensity to a lower household income as compared to the dual-parent household model. While previous Canadian research suggests that prioritizing home ownership or using savings partially explains the trend of some recent immigrants having higher home ownership rates than would be expected based on their household income (Haan 2012; Hiebert et al. 2006, 2008), our findings suggest an explanatory contribution for smaller housing size. In equivalent sized families, transnational split households had one less family member regularly residing in the host nation as compared to dual-parent households, which allowed members of transnational families to comfortably reside in littler homes in the host country that were less expensive to purchase.

Our findings also show a positive interaction between transnationalism and integration in the socio-cultural dimension. Both children and adults in transnational split households were more involved in host community activities than were their counterparts in dual-parent households. While previous research showed that the absence of both astronaut parents decreased control on homework completion and support for extra-curricular activities (Zhou 1998), our study found that children residing with one parent in transnational split households were more engaged in academic activities and community participation outside of school hours than were children from dual-parent households. We add to previous research that found an important driver of transnational split household formation was improved educational opportunity for children (Ho and Bedford 2008; Waters 2003, 2005). We show that transnational split families were more likely than dual-parent households to immigrate to Canada for their children’s education.

For adults, our findings augment previous research that found women in transnational families with fewer family members in the area connected with religious organizations for social networks, support, and activities (Chee 2005). Our study demonstrates that women in astronaut households, whose partners by definition are absent for extended periods, more frequently connect with religious institutions for services and functions than do women in dual-parent households.

Transnationalism may also have a positive interaction with integration on the breadth of informal social networks. In contrast to previous research of Hong Kong astronaut wives in Australia, which found that most of the women’s friends were of Chinese ethnicity (Pe-Pua et al. 1998), our study of PRC immigrants in Vancouver, Canada, found that astronaut wives were less likely than women in dual-parent households to report that most members of their social networks were Chinese. The lower prevalence of Chinese social networks for women in transnational split households versus their counterparts in dual-parents households in our study does not seem to be due to language, culture or class. A comparison of the two sample subgroups found similar rates of English language class attendance, uniformity in country of origin and ethnicity, and an income advantage for the control group. Future research would benefit from examining how transnationalism interacts with local neighborhood factors, such as ethnic group concentrations and housing types, in an effort to explain how members of transnational split households create the ethnic content of their social networks.


In this study, we applied Erdal and Oeppen’s (2013) typology of interactions between transnationalism and integration to assess how structural and socio-cultural integration differ between PRC transnational split households and dual-parent households in Vancouver, Canada. While transnationalism antagonized employment and financial structural integration, a transnational split household strategy boosted housing and socio-cultural integration for members in the host country as compared to two-parent households. However, we were not able to distinguish between additive or synergistic interactions.

Future research would benefit through the inclusion of interviews with the astronauts in transnational split households and their male counterparts in dual-parent households. A limitation of the current study is that the women may not have had complete information about their husbands’ financial affairs. The men would be able to supply first-hand information about their finances. In addition, details about housing held in the country of origin may help differentiate between an additive or synergistic interaction between transnationalism and integration in this structural dimension.